Dallas Resources – July–December
By Ed Housewright
A judge has dismissed one of two sex-abuse lawsuits filed against the Catholic Diocese of Dallas last year, saying it came too long after the alleged abuse in the mid-1980s.
The suit, filed in October on behalf of a Dallas County man, named the diocese and former priest Robert Peebles. It was dismissed late last week by state District Judge David Godbey, who said the statute of limitations had run out.
Another suit was filed at the same time on behalf of two Ellis County men in connection with abuse allegedly committed by former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos from 1990 to 1992. It is pending before a different judge.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said the dismissal could be a "turning point" for the diocese.
"We are pleased with the court's decision, which followed the law," the bishop said in a written statement. "It should enable us to continue our rebuilding efforts."
Plaintiffs' attorney Windle Turley, who filed the suits in October, said the diocese relied on a "technical defense" in having the suit dismissed. He criticized the law that allows an abuse case to be dismissed if it is not filed within two years of occurrence or before the victim's 20th birthday.
He said he had not decided whether to appeal Judge Godbey's ruling.
"While the Catholic Church may have elected to assert a technical defense from its responsibilities to these young men . . . it has no moral defense," Mr. Turley said in a written statement. "It was the church's own misconduct which emotionally damaged these boys and thus prevented them as young men from being able to step forward and assert their legal rights."
Diocese attorney Randal Mathis said in a written statement that the judge's dismissal was "required by long-established Texas law."
In July 1997, a Dallas civil jury found that the diocese committed "gross negligence" in its handling of Mr. Kos, who was alleged to have abused boys at several churches from 1981 to 1992. It awarded $ 119.6 million to plaintiffs in the largest clergy-abuse judgment in history. With interest, the judgment grew to about $ 175 million.
The diocese also tried to get those cases dismissed before trial by citing the statute of limitations, but state District Judge Anne Ashby chose not to dismiss them. Mr. Turley gave several reasons why he thought the statute of limitations should not apply, including "fraudulent concealment" by the diocese. Judge Ashby did not say why she ruled not to dismiss the suits, Mr. Mathis said.
In July 1998, the diocese and Mr. Turley reached a $ 23.4 million settlement of the claims by nine young men. Three other plaintiffs reached a $ 7.5 million settlement with the diocese four months earlier.
Last October, the diocese criticized Mr. Turley for filing the two new suits, saying he had indicated he wouldn't sue the diocese again.
In a written rebuttal, Mr. Turley denied ever making such a promise.
"The diocese seems to be under the mistaken impression that other victims of abuse were somehow settled out when the initial plaintiffs settled their cases," Mr. Turley said. "These three victims, all of whom have been known to the diocese for years, have every right to assert their own injury claims just as they have done.
"It is truly unfortunate that the diocese . . . will not face up to the reality that it has more victims in need of care and counseling."
In a statement about the lawsuit dismissal Friday, the diocese said it had immediately reported the alleged abuse in that case to Child Protective Services and taken steps to remove Mr. Peebles from the priesthood.
"In addition, counseling assistance was also offered by the diocese to the victim at that time," the diocese statement said. "That offer was declined."
Mike Weis , the diocese's chief financial officer, said the dismissal "will enable the diocese to focus its limited financial resources on appropriate ministries instead of incurring the huge costs of this type of litigation."
The diocese has said it would like to sell part of the historic St. Ann's Catholic School property to help pay the settlements. In April, the Dallas City Council designated part of the property a historic landmark but left the newer section unprotected and available for sale.
Some Dallas Hispanics called the vote a painful insult to their heritage. St. Ann's, at 2514 Harry Hines Blvd., is one of the last vestiges of a once-thriving neighborhood known as Little Mexico.
The diocese called the council's decision a fair compromise to a divisive issue.
[Photo Captions: 1. Robert Peebles 2. Rudolph "Rudy" Kos . . . a separate lawsuit concerning abuse he is alleged to have committed is pending.]
By Associated Press
Dallas (AP) - A state judge has thrown out one of two sexual-abuse lawsuits filed against the Dallas Catholic diocese last year, ruling that it was filed too long after the alleged abuse in the 1980s.
State District Judge David Godbey said the statute of limitations had lapsed on the incidents alleged in a lawsuit filed in October on behalf of a Dallas County man.
The lawsuit listed the diocese and former priest Robert Peebles Jr. as defendants. The diocese previously has paid settlements in lawsuits involving Peebles.
Another lawsuit filed at the same time on behalf of two Ellis County men is still pending before another judge. It accuses former priest Rudolph Kos of sexually abusing the two from 1990 to 1992.
Peebles was accused of sexually abusing four boys while serving in the diocese and as a U.S. Army chaplain in the '80s.
Bishop Charles V. Grahmann said the dismissal could be a "turning point" for the diocese.
"We are pleased with the court's decision, which followed the law. It should enable us to continue our rebuilding efforts," he said in a written statement to The Dallas Morning News.
In the Peebles and Kos lawsuits, the plaintiffs' attorneys allege diocese officials knew about the situation but covered it up.
Kos now is serving a life sentence after being convicted of sexually assaulting several altar boys. The Vatican removed him from the priesthood.
Randal Mathis of Dallas, the diocese's attorney, said in a written statement that the judge's action was "required by long-established Texas law."
But Dallas lawyer Windle Turley, who filed the Peebles lawsuit and began some of the Kos litigation, said the diocese relied on a technicality in having the Peebles suit thrown out.
"While the Catholic Church may have elected to assert a technical defense from its responsibilities to these young men ... it has no moral defense," he said in a written statement to The News.
The diocese already has reached $31 million in settlements in lawsuits filed by 12 plaintiffs, including eight former altar boys, who accused him of molesting them over more than a decade.
Turley represented nine of those clients and negotiated a $23.4 million settlement on their behalf.
By Holly Becka and Brooks Egerton
A Dallas priest charged with child molestation would plead guilty and serve unsupervised probation in his native Nigeria under terms proposed by his prominent attorneys, who were hired by local Catholic leaders.
Prosecutors said they would oppose the sentence, which the defense has arranged to present Friday to state District Judge Harold Entz in a hearing not listed on the court docket.
On July 30, an attorney for the Rev. Anthony Nwaogu asked First Assistant District Attorney Mike Carnes to agree to the arrangement and urged him to listen to a tape of a voice-mail message from Judge Entz about the case.
Mr. Carnes said he and his staff did not listen to the defense attorney's tape. "I never did feel compelled to listen to the tape because my response was, we're not going to agree" to probation, he said.
In a brief telephone interview Thursday night, Judge Entz acknowledged leaving such a message but said he had reached no decision.
"No deals," he said. "I haven't heard any evidence.
"I may have opined that I would take into consideration the full penalty range, which by law I'm obligated to do, including but not limited to probation."
Father Nwaogu could not be located for comment Thursday, and his attorneys did not respond to repeated phone messages.
The priest was freed from jail in late June after Judge Entz, despite prosecutors' objections, cut his bail to $5,000 from $50,000. One of his attorneys paid the bail in cash, court records show.
The judge said he acted to allow the priest to enter a Catholic treatment center in Splendora, near Houston. Father Nwaogu left the center last week for a hearing before Judge Entz, according to a letter from a nun who runs the center.
Judge Entz was absent and was replaced by a visiting judge for that hearing, which also was not listed on the court docket. The defense declined to present its case to visiting Judge Thomas Thorpe, who refused to comment on whether he was offered a chance to listen to the tape.
Judge Entz said he was unsure why clerks failed to place Friday's hearing and the previous hearing on the docket.
Father Nwaogu initially admitted to officers that he fondled the genitals and breasts of a 12-year-old parishioner at his South Dallas church, St. Anthony. He has since denied guilt to the local African Herald, saying that contact occurred only when he pushed the girl away after she came on to him.
Mary Edlund, the diocese's chancellor, said she thought Father Nwaogu was in the Dallas area with his attorneys Thursday but that she knew no details. There is no indication in court records that the priest's passport was seized.
Prosecutors say they will have a tough time fighting for a jail sentence Friday because the 12-year-old and her mother have expressed concern about testifying.
Dallas police Detective Jerry Williams said he suspected that someone had pressured the two, noting that they had been very cooperative earlier.
"You kind of read between the lines - it's not normal," the detective said Thursday. "She's not showing up, and the church is reaching out to this guy [Father Nwaogu]. Something is going on here."
Ms. Edlund said she knew of no intimidation. The 12-year-old's mother would say little about that possibility Wednesday, then became speechless and retreated behind a closed door when told that Father Nwaogu had left the treatment center and could not be located.
Moments earlier, the mother said that she had not been advised of the two undocketed court hearings. Prosecutors insisted that she had. She said she had been told that Father Nwaogu might be sentenced to deferred-adjudication probation Aug. 13 - the only hearing listed in court records. If he completed that probation successfully, no conviction would appear on his record.
Lori Watson, an attorney for the mother, said late Thursday that her client had just been advised of Friday's hearing and planned to attend. She said she did not know whether the woman and her daughter would testify.
Ms. Edlund said she had offered moral support to the girl's family, and she confirmed that the Dallas diocese is helping pay for the priest's defense team.
The diocese refused to assist with the defense of former priest Rudolph "Rudy" Kos during civil and criminal trials in recent years. He is now serving a life sentence in state prison for child sexual abuse.
Asked why Father Nwaogu's situation was different, Ms. Edlund said, "It was simply a concern that he be afforded due process." The diocese suspended his priestly powers immediately after his arrest in May, she added.
Father Nwaogu's attorneys are Kim Wade, a son of former District Attorney Henry Wade who once shared a law office with current District Attorney Bill Hill; and Joanne Hurtekant, who also shared an office with Mr. Hill.
Mr. Hill and his top aide, Mr. Carnes, said they would give no special treatment to lawyers with whom they've worked in the past.
Mr. Wade was out of town and unavailable for comment, his office said; Ms. Hurtekant did not respond to phone messages.
In 1998, Ms. Hurtekant represented suspended priest Richard Tullius, who received unsupervised deferred-adjudication probation for stealing from his Grand Prairie parish. That sentence also came after the priest made a brief, unannounced return to Dallas from a treatment center.
In Father Nwaogu's case, Ms. Hurtekant and Mr. Wade replaced attorney Obinna Duruji, who failed at a May hearing to persuade Judge Entz to reduce his client's bail.
"In refusing to reduce the $50,000 bond, the court observed the absence of any representation from the diocese," Mr. Duruji wrote to diocesan attorney Dennis Sullivan.
In that June 1 letter, he said that Ms. Edlund told him a few days after the priest's arrest "that there were five other [complaints] against Rev. Anthony [Nwaogu] by five other minors."
Ms. Edlund acknowledged speaking to Mr. Duruji after a counselor talked to children at the church school about inappropriate touching. Four or five girls, she said, then reported that "Father had touched them. They described him stroking them on their knees and giving them a pat on their bottom."
By Associated Press
Dallas (AP) - A Dallas Catholic priest has pleaded guilty to fondling a 12-year-old girl.
Rev. Emeh "Anthony" Nwaogu faces between two and 20 years in prison for assaulting the girl at St. Anthony Catholic Church in South Dallas where he had been priest-in-charge for the past five years.
A sentencing hearing will be set at a later date.
Nwaogu also could be sentenced to deferred-adjudication probation, which would be served in his native Nigeria.
The girls' mother testified that Nwaogu offered his "confession" to her when she confronted him about why her daughter came to her in tears.
"I asked him for the truth," she said, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News. "I didn't tell him anything" about what the girl had said.
"He dropped his head and said he had touched her here," she said, pointing to her chest, "and in her privates and said it was not appropriate."
Before the May incident at the priest's house, the family confided in Nwaogu that the girl was sexually abused before the family adopted her, making the priest's actions even more upsetting for the family.
Prosecutors are seeking the maximum penalty in the case.
"There's no way it could ever be a minimum case," said prosecutor Robbie McClung after the trial ended Friday. "It's in the best interest of that child and every child that he be locked away for as long as possible, and the maximum is 20 years."
Nwaogu's supporters say such a severe penalty is overdoing it. High school teacher Betty White, one of Father Nwaogu's six supporters in court Friday, testified that the priest had been an asset to the parish during his six years in Dallas.
She asked the court to consider probation, saying she believed he could be supervised by the church in Nigeria.
Nwaogu is the ninth priest in the Dallas Catholic Diocese to be accused of child sexual abuse in the 1990s and the second to be arrested. The other one arrested, Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, is serving a life sentence in state prison. The diocese and its insurers paid about $31 million to settle claims that church leaders covered up his abuse of 11 boys.
More than $5 million was paid to settle claims involving other priests.
"We can't put this one in the same category," diocesan spokesman Bronson Havard said after Nwaogu's arrest in early May. "This is almost something that's unpredictable - no signals, no flares up.
"It's not anything we could do anything to prevent," Havard said.
By Associated Press
Dallas (AP) - A Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to sexually molesting a 12-year-old girl has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Rev. Emeh "Anthony" Nwaogu of St. Anthony Catholic Church in South Dallas was sentenced Friday by state District Judge Harold Entz.
He faced a sentence of two to 20 years. He will be eligible for parole in 2 1/2 years.
Defense attorneys asked the judge to give Nwaogu probation and immediately deport him to his native Nigeria to receive treatment.
Because of his felony conviction, Nwaogu - a Nigerian citizen who has
been in Dallas since 1993 - will be deported automatically when he completes
"I think justice was done," Assistant District Attorney Robbie McClung said. "The judge took a lot of things into consideration. . . . Now he'll get the sentence he deserves here, and in five years he'll be Nigeria's concern. And hopefully he can get the treatment he needs there."
The victim was assaulted at Nwaogu's home in May while her grandmother and mother cleaned the house for him, according to court records.
In her closing statement Friday, McClung said the victim in this case had a history of being sexually abused before she was adopted and that her adoptive parents told Nwaogu about it.
Mary Edlund, chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Dallas, attended the hearing and said the judge's sentence was clear.
"What we've heard today from the courts . . . is that any individual who abuses their position of trust and authority is going to be dealt with very sternly," she said. "And as a church, we hear that message. The Catholic diocese hears that message. Our priority is making our churches and schools safe places for children."
Nwaogu is the ninth priest in the Dallas Catholic Diocese to be accused of child sexual abuse in the 1990s and the second to be arrested.
The other one arrested, Rudolph "Rudy" Kos, is serving a life sentence in state prison. The diocese and its insurers paid about $31 million to settle claims that church leaders covered up his abuse of 11 boys.
More than $5 million was paid to settle claims involving other priests.
By Selwyn Crawford
The Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, the new coadjutor for the Diocese of Dallas, is regarded as a fair, open, humble man who values the opinion of everyone under his leadership - down to the least-known parishioner.
After he was appointed bishop in Beaumont five years ago, he visited all 44 parishes to talk to parishioners about what they wanted.
"It made them feel that they counted," said Sister Esther Dunegan, chancellor for the diocese. "I heard so many people say that this was the first time that the bishop had come to our parish just to listen."
He also is given credit for opening up the parish, particularly to Hispanic and black worshipers, who make up a large part of Beaumont's diocese. He established an office of Hispanic ministry and strengthened a similar ministry for blacks.
An Italian-American whose parents were born in the United States, Bishop Galante was born and grew up in Philadelphia, the oldest of four boys. As a child, he often pretended to be a priest reciting the sermon and mimicking the ceremony, according to a profile in Lone Star Bishops: The Roman Catholic Hierarchy in Texas.
Father Michael A. Jamail, vicar general for the Beaumont Diocese, said that when he thinks of Bishop Galante, the term "fresh focus" comes to mind.
"He has a fresh focus as we enter the new millennium," Father Jamail said. "An openness to the issues and a willingness to listen."
After his ordination in 1964, Bishop Galante spent four years in Brownsville and 15 in Philadelphia in a variety of diocesan positions. He served in Rome for five years before being ordained as a bishop. His first appointment was as auxiliary bishop in San Antonio; after two years, he was appointed bishop in Beaumont.
"He has always given an excellent priestly example of prayerfulness and of apostolic zeal," Archbishop John P. Foley, a fellow Pennsylvanian, once said.
Though reserved and soft-spoken, Bishop Galante also has been willing to speak his mind.
In a 1984 discussion of abortion on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, Monsignor Galante responded to a newspaper ad in which several Catholics - including 24 nuns - had written that opinions on abortion differed among Catholics.
"I think that . . . the abortion issue is not just a woman's issue. It's a justice issue," he said. "If we begin to take an issue like abortion and treat it as some would have us do . . . that it's the prerogative of the woman because it's her body, then we can take that principle and apply it to other justice issues."
Father Jamail and Sister Dunegan said that other than his parish visits, Bishop Galante's greatest legacy in Beaumont may be the way he handled the diocese's dire financial condition.
During his Dallas news conference Tuesday, Bishop Galante referred to the financial problems and indicated that he could help the Dallas Diocese. The diocese and insurers have paid about $31 million to settle claims that church leaders covered up former priest Rudy Kos' abuse of 11 boys. More than $5 million was paid to settle claims involving other priests.
"My experience has been, if we can form people to understand stewardship and make people realize legitimate needs that we as a church have, people are very, very generous," he said. "People care about the needs of their brothers and sisters and how they can be touched."
That attitude has won him praise.
"He's made some difficult decisions and gotten us back on track financially," Sister Dunegan said. "He's a very intelligent, sensitive and perceptive person. Dallas is getting a really good man."
By Berta Delgado
The Most Rev. Joseph A. Galante, a 61-year-old Philadelphia-born priest, was named Tuesday to succeed Bishop Charles V. Grahmann as head of the 600,000-member Catholic Diocese of Dallas.
In a news conference at Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe in downtown Dallas, Bishop Grahmann presented Bishop Galante as the diocese's coadjutor bishop - an assistant appointed by Pope John Paul II and given the right of immediate succession.
"Some 10 months ago, I wrote the Holy Father about the monumental increase in the number of Catholics in the diocese," said Bishop Grahmann. "This monumental increase has also increased the workload of our parishes, as well as my own responsibilities. Thus, I asked the Holy Father to send me some assistance for the remaining seven years of my ministry."
The number of Catholics in the nine-county diocese has more than doubled since 1990, when Bishop Grahmann assumed his post.
Bishop Galante, who will begin work Jan. 14, comes from the Diocese of Beaumont, where he served for five years. He also worked in San Antonio and Brownsville and was a priest in Philadelphia.
Bishop Galante said church law decrees that he and Bishop Grahmann collaborate on all important decisions in governing the Dallas Diocese.
"Basically, as I said to someone earlier in Spanish, "Tenemos un obispo con dos cabezas,' " said Bishop Galante, an Italian-American whose parents were the first in his family born in the United States. "We have a bishop with two heads."
Coadjutor bishops are appointed because of personal circumstances of the bishop, such as advancing age, deteriorating health or special responsibilities. Of the 192 U.S. dioceses, only four have coadjutors, according to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In December 1989, Bishop Grahmann was named coadjutor of the Dallas Diocese, seven months before Bishop Thomas Tschoepe retired. Bishop Tschoepe, who served as the spiritual leader for the diocese for 21 years, left the post five months before the mandatory retirement age of 75. Bishop Grahmann will reach that age in seven years.
Church observers say it is highly unlikely that Bishop Grahmann, whose tenure has included high-profile accusations of clergy sex abuse, will stay that long.
Naming a coadjutor "is usually done to assure a smooth transition, and it's usually done when there is the anticipation that the present bishop will be retiring in the not-too-distant future," said the Rev. John Beal, chairman of the department of canon law at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. "Seven years is longer than one would normally expect unless they anticipate the present bishop will submit his resignation before he reaches his 75th birthday."
Said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, editor of America, a Jesuit magazine: "That's a pretty long time for a coadjutor to be in office."
Bronson Havard, spokesman for the Dallas Diocese, agreed that that would be unusual.
"I don't think most Catholic observers would expect it to happen," he said. "But Bishop Grahmann can clearly name his own time within that time frame. It's just something that we'll have to see how that works out."
The sex abuse cases involving former priest Rudy Kos and accusations against eight other Dallas priests have troubled the diocese under Bishop Grahmann's leadership.
Two years ago, a civil jury awarded 11 plaintiffs a record $119.6 million after finding that the diocese had committed "gross negligence" and had concealed information in the handling of Mr. Kos. Bishop Grahmann took office nine years after the sexual abuse by Mr. Kos is alleged to have begun and two years before he was removed.
The diocese and insurers have paid about $31 million to settle claims involving Mr. Kos. More than $5 million has been paid to settle claims involving other priests.
Bishop Grahmann also angered Hispanics when the diocese decided to sell St. Ann's Catholic School to help pay the Kos settlement. The Dallas City Council designated part of St. Ann's as a historic landmark, leaving much of the site available for sale and development.
Asked how he would lead a diocese with that history, Bishop Galante said he will spend a lot of time listening.
"All of us need healing for lots of things. We need healing from our own sins and from what the sins of others do to us," he said. "I've tried, in my priesthood and as a bishop, to try to be a healing presence.
"I come with no program because I don't know the details of what has happened in Dallas except for what I read in the papers. I have no inside information. Sin always is disruptive. Whatever kind of sin always wounds. And every one of us needs healing from our own sins and from the sins of others - and certainly from the sins of Rudy Kos or anyone else."
Several months after the Kos civil verdict, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys contacted Bishop Galante's diocese with a Washington state sexual abuse allegation that involved a priest whose career started decades earlier in Beaumont. One of Bishop Galante's predecessors ordained the priest despite questions about his fitness, Dallas attorney Sylvia Demarest said Tuesday.
The Beaumont Diocese, she said, quickly paid her client an out-of-court settlement.
Bishop Galante "struck me as a very astute guy who understood that it's better to pay a little money now than a lot later and open up the history of the diocese to scrutiny," Ms. Demarest said. "He clearly learned from the Dallas experience."
The Rev. David Colella, pastor of St. Clara Catholic Church, said he has known Bishop Galante for several years and believes he is a good choice as coadjutor.
"Because of the growth of the diocese, there will better spiritual service now to the people of Dallas because of the help of another bishop," Father Colella said. "Bishop Galante is a very approachable person, a very understandable person, a hard worker, very methodical and a great lover of the church and Jesus Christ. . . . He's going to do great."
The Rev. Ramon Alvarez, pastor of the cathedral, said the announcement was a nice surprise.
"I think it's a very prudent act on the part of the pope," he said. "Bishop Galante appears to be a very sincere man, a very open man who seems to be a good listener. I think he comes here with a heart to find the needs here and to see in what manner we can better the diocese."
Father Beal of Catholic University said that a bishop who needs help running a diocese usually will ask for an auxiliary.
The Vatican "may have thought that rather than provide an inexperience auxiliary, they'd have someone with more experience. Galante has first-hand experience running a diocese," he said.
Bishop Galante's arrival may let Bishop Grahmann concentrate on what he loves - working with bishops from other countries and missionaries, Mr. Havard said.
"He might increasingly let Bishop Galante take on the nitty-gritty of everyday business," such as budget and personnel matters, he said.
Bishop Galante, who at one point addressed the media in a halting Spanish, looked to Bishop Grahmann - who is fluent - for help with some words. Bishop Galante said he is ready to go to work.
"Hopefully, my Spanish will have improved by then," he said.
Staff writer Brooks Egerton contributed to this report.
By Berta Delgado
- The next spiritual leader of Dallas-area Catholics is a Yankee with the soul of a Texan.
He's a man who breaks into the great Roy Orbison's "Only the Lonely" just as easily as he recites the prayers of the Mass. And he'll rattle off "Baldemar Huerta" -- Freddy Fender's real name -- with perfect pronunciation while speaking of Texas musicians.
But don't ask Bishop Joseph A. Galante, who will come to North Texas Jan. 14 as coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Dallas, to root for the Dallas Cowboys. As a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles fan who bought a satellite dish to catch the football team's games, he can't and won't let himself become a fan of the silver and blue, says the 61-year-old.
That might be easier said than done, say friends and family.
"He will be living in the shadows of Texas Stadium," says his brother Bill Galante, who lives just outside Philly. "I started teasing him the other day, 'How 'bout them Cowboys!' I said, 'You're going to have to be a fan.' I think it might be a wise decision if he does."
As coadjutor bishop, he will take up residence at Holy Trinity Seminary, just up the road from the stadium.
In his new position, he will work with Bishop Charles V. Grahmann on all matters of the 600,000-member diocese, and he has been given the right of immediate succession. Bishop Grahmann reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75 in seven years, but canon law experts say it's rare for the Vatican to place a coadjutor bishop in a diocese for that long. Experts don't expect Bishop Grahmann to stay until retirement age.
"Whatever happens, happens," Bishop Galante, who has been bishop of the Beaumont diocese for five years, says in a voice so calm it could soothe a colicky baby.
It's that calm, that peace born from his strong faith, that those closest to Bishop Galante say is most telling of his character.
"Bishop Galante has a great sense of spiritual grounding and really brings God's light, not only to the church, but to all those who can see God's light," says Rabbi Peter E. Hyman, who recently left Beaumont to lead a synagogue outside Philadelphia. "He's a real wonderful man."
The oldest of four sons born in Philadelphia to Italian-Americans, Leonard and Edith Galante, Joseph Anthony Galante was always drawn to the priesthood.
"I grew up in a reasonably religious family; my mother and father were regular churchgoers, and more," he recalls on a recent warm day in his office in the Beaumont diocese. "We always had priest friends, there were always priests around the house. When I was born ... my mother's mother, who did not speak too much English, walked to the office, and the doctor, who had been a football player, said to her, 'Grandma, we got ourselves a nice football player.' And my grandmother said to him, 'No, no football player. Priest.' "
By the time he was 4, he'd return home from Mass and pretend he was a priest.
"There was always that thought that Joe would enter the seminary, and he did after his sophomore year in high school," says his brother Bill. "He was a very bright student, and he had his mind made up. He was always someone who had a great devotion to Mass and to the church, but it's not like he walked with his hands folded all the time and his eyes cast down."
Joe had other interests, such as football and baseball, and he loved to read.
"I was too young to join the library so I had to tell them I was 7 when I was really 6, just so I could check out books," he says with a laugh.
The boy also loved radio programs, and he says his knowledge of radio trivia comes from those days. There's not an old radio program he doesn't know about, and he is just as knowledgeable about sports, television and music. In Beaumont, he regularly appeared on radio shows about trivia.
Bishop Galante is also a canon law expert who studied at Lateran University in Rome. He received his Master of Arts in Spiritual Theology at the University of St. Thomas, also in Rome.
After ordination in Philadelphia, he worked in his hometown, in Brownsville and in San Antonio before being named bishop of the 86,000-member Beaumont diocese in 1994. He arrived to find a diocese in financial straits.
Bishop Galante arrives in Dallas as coadjutor bishop of a diocese that is also facing financial problems. The diocese and insurers have paid about $31 million to settle claims stemming from sex abuse cases involving former priest Rudy Kos. More than $5 million has been paid to settle claims involving other priests. The diocese sold St. Ann's Catholic School near downtown Dallas to help pay the Kos settlement.
In Beaumont, the diocese had a $1.2 million budget deficit and was only about two years away from depleting its savings, says fiscal officer Russell Chimeno.
The bishop hired Mr. Chimeno, appointed a new finance council and worked to knock out the deficit. Mr. Chimeno says the diocese eliminated some positions and closed some offices to balance the budget.
The Rev. James Fuller, pastor of Calder Baptist Church, says the bishop asked him to speak to clergy about stewardship.
"He said to me: 'I really need you to come out and tell my clergy how you do it. We Catholics don't have a long history of doing that, and we really need to figure out better how to do that,' " he recalls. "It was amazing to me. Here he was, a new bishop who saw this need and grabbed a Baptist -- whose denomination has a history of doing that -- and put me to work."
Local attorney Wayne Reaud has another story.
"When Joe came to town, the bishop had a mansion, a Lincoln, a chauffeur," says Mr. Reaud, who is also Baptist. "One of the first things he did was he said: 'I don't need this. I can use it for Catholic Charities, to feed the poor. I don't need this kind of grandeur.' "
With the permission of the family who had donated the red-brick, two-story home to the diocese, Bishop Galante sold it and moved into the Towne Oaks Apartment Homes.
"It was, in my mind, an unnecessary expense," Bishop Galante says. "The electric bills were about $347 a month. That's kind of ridiculous, really."
"His apartment is nice," Mr. Reaud says, "but it's a humble apartment. ... I submit to you, if you went all over America, you would not find a Catholic bishop living so modestly."
The bishop, who drives a white, Chrysler mini-van, says the three-bedroom apartment suited him just fine. There, he put two large bookcases in the middle of the dining room to create an area for a chapel, where he celebrates Mass with nuns who live nearby when he can't be at a church.
In the family room, a large-screen television shares the entertainment center with a CD collection of country and '50s and '60s music.
"Oh, I just love country music," he says, showing visitors a collection that includes everything from Patsy Cline to Clay Walker. "I know I have Freddy Fender somewhere."
He looks through a box holding audio cassettes and pulls out the tape. "I'll be there, before the next teardrop falls," he belts out, his hand resting on a tummy that betrays his passion for pasta.
It's not unusual for this man to break out in song. Sometimes, even with a microphone.
After Mass at St. Helen Catholic Church in nearby Orangefield on a recent December evening, the bishop joined members of the Bayou Country Grass Band singing old favorites "Walking the Floor Over You," "Sweet Dreams" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."
"Our first song was 'San Antonio Rose,' and he couldn't stand it, he just had to get up there and sing it," says band member Carroll Benoit. "He's got great talents. I told him if he quit bishoping he could have a career in Nashville."
Mr. Benoit, a parishioner at St. Helen, says it meant a lot that Bishop Galante felt comfortable enough to get up and sing.
"It shows he's a real person," he says. "He still has a life besides being a bishop. He's been a great bishop for us and I'm sad to see him go. Maybe we'll get as good a bishop, but he probably won't be able to sing as well."
Employees and friends say Bishop Galante leaves behind a financially sound diocese and one that knows more about itself. Three years ago, the bishop started a synod process to hear from diocesan employees and parishioners. He and diocesan officials led 49 two-hour sessions in an eight-month period.
Sister Marilyn Vollmer, director of synod for the diocese, says that among other things, they found there was a great need for adult education. The classes they started have attracted more than 800 people, she says.
He also leaves behind an interfaith community that he was very involved in.
"What you see is what you get with him," says Dr. Fuller. "He's comfortable with those who are like him and unlike him. He readily admits that Catholics have as much to learn from non-Catholics."
Dr. Fuller and Mr. Reaud say Bishop Galante's early morning minute-long messages on a local television station have been inspirational for people of various faiths.
And Michael Collins, principal of Monsignor Kelly Catholic High School, says Bishop Galante has made a special effort to reach out to youth. He alternates celebrating Mass at the diocese's seven schools.
On a recent December morning, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, he held Mass at the high school for about 600 students. Before and after, students, parents, faculty and staff hugged him goodbye.
"A lot of kids like the way he does his homily because he doesn't repeat himself and go too long, like a lot of priests," says 14-year-old Ana Benis. "He gets his point across."
Charles Prewitt says Bishop Galante never talks down to students; rather, he speaks at their level.
"He's a great guy," says the 17-year-old soccer player. "I'd rather him stay here, but his calling is in Dallas, so that's good also. Dallas is lucky."
[Staff photographer Erich Schlegel contributed to this report.]
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